It never occurred to me that my daughter might not live. Adrenaline coursed through my maternal veins and filled me with energetic hope. The doctor took aside my husband and performed the unenviable task of breaking the bad news to the father of the premature baby so that he could be there for me when the inevitable happened. He generously gave her a five percent chance of survival. I never doubted or questioned her ferocity in fighting for her life.
Some have said that it was my faith in her that did it. Others said that it was her strength that affirmed my faith. Whichever way you look at it, that three pound eight ounce little girl born too early came home in a news-worthy eighteen days. She was the talk of the town, the buzz of the hospital, a miraculous bundle of joy and hope in a world gone dark and solemn in the wake our generation’s greatest tragedy.
Already having had one successful term pregnancy, the early signs of labor went unchecked by myself or anybody else. Others voiced genuine concern over our well-being but a stubborn refusal to admit to complication kept me wandering around caring for the house and child number one who was a scant ten months old at that point. Fresh out of the military and home from a stay with my mother, I was unwilling to accept that my body was letting me know that something was not right. She was only at thirty-two weeks gestation. After suffering through what I naively referred to as Braxton Hicks and false labor, I finally took notice rather late in the evening.
At that point, I alerted my husband to the situation at hand and he proceeded to go through the hour long checklist. Satisfied that we should contact the labor and delivery ward, he left to give them a buzz as our phone had yet to be activated in our new home. In the four minutes that he was gone, my body’s contractions forced me to my knees on the hardwood floor where she was born without any prompting from me. With no assistance, my poor girl hit her head on the hardwood floor as I tried in vain to catch her. Scared out of my mind, I grabbed the freshly laundered, yet to be put away towels at the end of my bed, wrapped her up, and proceeded to do nothing shy of keep her warm until paramedics arrived. That did not happen as quickly as one would hope as her father had to be forced out of frozen shock to wake the neighbor’s boy to call for assistance.
By the time of arrival, a crowd had gathered in that midnight hour to witness the child who had the odds of survival stacked against her. She resided in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) for nine days before 9/11 struck. Being active duty, we were not allowed to leave our home until finding out whether or not my husband had to leave. We were lucky and he was gone a very short time. In that time, she improved on at least one new thing a day until she was declared free to go home. In eighteen days, I witnessed the growth of a miracle and I will never forget to be thankful. Nor did I ever forget that I do not do false labor! My next two children were premature but quick thinking and awareness of my body allowed me to endure lengthy hospital stays in my child’s best interest which produced healthy, thriving children. I know how blessed I am and can assure the biggest cynic that I am extremely grateful for the good health of my children.
The doctors do not know what has caused my children to be premature. My body has been deemed healthy and free from defect and my (now ex) husband’s swimmers were declared competent. He was premature as were a few members of his and my families but genetics has not been definitively determined to cause prematurity. The truth is that doctors do not know the answer to this question. There are so many risk factors, health factors, situational factors and more to be able to make any satisfactory claims regarding this mystery. More research is needed but the funds just are not there. In the mean time, awareness will have to do. Please urge all women to take care of their bodies and double that care when carrying her future. We may not be able to prevent the cause of prematurity, but we sure can slow it down and consequently lower the mortality rate. Every day that child gets to stay in the security of the womb is a very good day.